Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm Here! Part Two: Arrival and Culture Shock

Wow. So much for this being posted "tomorrow". Once again, my new life in Korea got away from me and it has taken way too long for me to post something new.

So, when we last left off I was headed towards Newark Liberty airport. What followed was luckily not a repeat performance of my flight to orientation and was relatively smooth. The flight to Korea was mostly just really long and boring, the food was ok and the movies United decided to play were awful.

Fast forward 23-ish hours and we arrive at Incheon International Airport, just outside Seoul. After clearing customs and immigration, we head out the arrivals gate to see a familiar face: Kurt! One half of our fearless site-coordinator duo. Only he's speaking this language...Korean! Egads...somehow, we can communicate enough to find our way onto a bus to Daejeon, and little did I know how normal this sort of interaction without complete comprehension was to become in just a few short days.

My first bit of culture shock hit me when we stopped halfway to Daejeon for a bathroom break at a travel center (which was enormous and had a food court and small mall in addition to the standard vending machines) and I realize: We are the only non-Koreans in sight. It's a bit overwhelming to be perfectly honest, and a dim sort of understanding of what it's like to be a minority back in America slowly begins to bloom inside of me.

When we get to Daejeon, I'm already not having any of it. I can't read any signs without having to stop for about a minute, I'm tired, I'm jetlagged, and my bags are entirely too heavy and I'm wondering why I packed so much. We're met at the bus terminal by Chung Moksanim (Reverend Chung), one of the chaplains at Hannam University and were escorted to our new home. There we met the other half of our fearless site-coordinator team, Hyeyoung! Maybe I was imagining it, but she seemed to sense my trepidations and emanated a calming presence in response...maybe this is not so bad, I thought. We went to eat dinner at a place nearby that has an enormous menu, and we are gratefully submersed relatively easily into our first Korean cuisine experience: Gimbap (meat and vegetables wrapped in seaweed and rice, kind of like sushi but not really) and donkkaseu (breaded and fried pork cutlet topped with a sweet sauce, delicious).

Things get a little easier over the next couple of days. We begin our orientation in Korea the next day, which involves a week and a half of discussions about Korean history and culture, traveling around to our site placements, eating more food that's delicious and interesting, taking a pretest for our Korean class (hahaha...ha), and just in general getting our feet wet in Daejeon. Slowly but surely, I began to get my bearings in and around Hannam University, our home away from home.

Early on in our orientation, Hyeyoung asked us to try and look for God during this time. At first this was difficult. Everything around me was so foreign, even God seemed foreign and distant from me. I felt cut off, enjoying the Korean culture but not really feeling God's presence in the midst of all of it. However, slowly the clouds began to shift and I did begin to see God: In the smiling face of Kim Moksanim, my site placement supervisor; in the many interactions with new friends, all of them so welcoming and warm; and God even crept back into my own times of personal reflection, providing me with inner peace as I began the long and arduous process of adjustment to life in Korea.

This process still continues to this day, and I know I will still be adjusting next July when it is time to go home. Thankfully, I'm beginning to see God in even more places now, and each moment of recognition puts a new face on the multi-faceted existence of the Trinity.

I promise not to take so long next time!!!! Hopefully I can post about my day-to-day experiences soon!

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Bennett! Really enjoyed reading your post. It has been so long since I have been back to Korea (more than 20 years ago). It is such a treat to walk along your journey and learn about my country of origin through your stories. Thanks...